The Likelihood Of Survival At Different Stages Of Lung Cancer
Once non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) develops, it spreads quickly, moving from the affected lung to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body. The patient’s chances of survival are directly related to how quickly the disease can be diagnosed and treated. Each stage is associated with a presumed survival rate. These rates help physicians discuss the condition with their patients in the context of what they can expect.
The survival rates commonly used by doctors are based on the likelihood the patient will live for longer than five years following diagnosis. The numbers are merely guidelines as many people live with NSCLC for many years beyond the average.
This article will discuss the various stages of the disease, and present their respective survival rates. We’ll also describe the factors that can influence the patient’s chances of survival.
Stage I Survival
This is the earliest stage in which lung cancer can be detected. According to the American Cancer Society, the survival rate ranges from 49 percent at the beginning of the stage to 45 percent near its end. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of cases are diagnosed this early.
At this point in the disease’s development, it is still localized within the lung. It has not yet spread to the lymph nodes. There are rarely noticeable symptoms, which is the reason the disease usually remains undetected.
Stage II Survival
This stage is categorized into two sub-stages: IIA and IIB. The survival rate is approximately 30 percent. The sub-stages reflect the size of the tumor. In IIA, the mass measures less than three centimeters; in IIB, it is larger.
By this time, the disease has reached the lymph nodes, and may have progressed into the patient’s main bronchus. Symptoms begin to surface, and usually include coughing (with blood), chest pain, and shortness of breath. The patient will also display an increased susceptibility to infection.
Stage III Survival
Stage III non-small cell lung cancer is also categorized into two sub-stages: IIIA and IIIB. Unlike Stage II, however, there is a large difference in survival rates between the two sub-stages. IIIA has a survival rate of 14 percent: for IIIB, it drops to 5 percent.
By the time the disease advances to Stage IIIA, the tumor has grown substantially. Cancer cells may have spread beyond the nearby lymph nodes into those that are a little further away on the same side as the affected lung. By IIIB, the cells have spread into the distant lymph nodes, and often into other organs, such as the heart. NSCLC at this sub-stage is deemed inoperable.
Stage IV Survival
It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of those who are diagnosed with NSCLC do not find out about it until this last stage. The survival rate is 1 percent.
At the point, the disease is systemic. It has spread (i.e. metastasized) into other areas of the body. The bloody cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath that began in Stage II are still present, though they are much more pronounced. Pain has usually spread to the arms and back; a persistent wheeze will have developed; and the patient will often suffer from recurring bouts of bronchitis.
What Influences Lung Cancer Rates Of Survival?
Several factors play a role in determining the odds that a patient will succumb to non-small cell lung cancer, or survive longer than five years. For example, women tend to fare better than men. Also, if the patient’s lungs are healthy at the time of diagnosis, she stands a better chance of survival. This is especially the case if a lobectomy (removal of a lobe) is necessary.
The patient’s general health is also important since treatment is typically taxing on the body. The healthier she is, the better she’ll be able to tolerate surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Lung cancer can be cured as long as it is diagnosed early enough. But by Stage IIIA, the prognosis is notably unfavorable.